The next stop on my Immortal Memory Trail occurred in 2017, and it was in Collioure, a harbor town on the Mediterranean about 10 miles north of the Spanish Border. Nelson must have sailed offshore Collioure on one of his many Mediterranean tours of duty, but I could find no reference to him ever visiting there. Collioure is best known as Patrick O’Brian’s home where he wrote the entire Aubrey-Maturin canon. A pilgrimage to that source became the reason for my visit.
Collioure is part of French Catalonia, and readers of the Aubrey-Maturin series know that Stephen Maturin was half-Catalan and owned a castle somewhat south of the French-Spanish border in Spanish Catalonia. O’Brian certainly learned the Catalan culture and terroir during his time in Collioure. It infused his writing in both an earlier novel and his portrait of Stephen Maturin.
The town itself is magnificently picturesque, a former fishing village and artist’s colony turned tourist destination. One of O’Brian’s artist friends called it “the last stronghold of free spirits, errant poets and painters thirsting for pure colors.” O’Brian and his wife moved there in 1949. He made it his home until his death.
Armed with an article that noted his homes and haunts during his time in Collioure, we stayed in a hotel overlooking the harbor, drank in Les Templiers, the bar he often frequented, and drank in the spirit of the place (the bar had the more prosaic name of Cafe de Sports during O’Brian’s life). The following photos show the combination of history, charm and scenery that is Collioure’s draw.
Of course, no pilgrimage is complete without paying homage to the hero’s final resting place, so I was able to find Patrick and Mary’s grave in the “new cemetery” in the hills overlooking the town. Many “lissuns” had come there before me and I similarly paid my respects to the learned, but odd little man that has given me so many hours of reading pleasure.